Therapists Have a Lot to Add to the Field of Research, but Many Don’t Make it There: A Narrative Thematic Inquiry into Counsellors’ and Psychotherapists’ Embodied Engagement with Research
Sofie Bager-Charleson, Simon Du Plock & Alistair McBeath
Metanoia Institute London
Research frequently addresses a gap between practice and research in the field of psychotherapy. Castonguay et al (2010) suggest that the practice of many full-time psychotherapists is rarely or nonsubstantially influenced by research. Boisvert and Faust (2005) ask ‘why do psychotherapists not rely on the research to consistently inform their practice?’ and suggest that concerns ‘have echoed through the decades’ about psychotherapists’ failings to integrate of research and practice. This study focuses on therapists’ (counsellors and psychotherapists) reasoning about their engagement with ‘research’ as described in dissertations and in personal, anonymously presented documents, research journals and interviews included. The study focuses on the stages which generally are referred to as ‘data analysis’, which in this study refers research stages where interpretation typically is required with synthesising and analysing in mind. Turning our attention to the therapists’ ‘narrative knowing’ about research during these stages where generating own new knowledge is put to the forefront, have highlighted a complex relationship involving epistemological discrepancies, real or imagined, between practice and research. It also highlighted gender issues, culture and commonly held constructs about what constitutes a ‘counsellor’, which we believe influence therapists’ presence in research. We decided to include the citation “Therapists have a lot to add to the field of research, but many don’t make it there” in the title to illustrate some of the complexity. The study is based on a Professional Doctorate programme, which engages with psychologists, counsellors and psychotherapists in practice-based research. In addition to drawing from dissertations already in the public domain students and graduates from the doctoral programme were invited to contribute their own embodied experiences from ‘doing’ a data analysis. The paper suggests a hybrid for narrative analysis, discussing the options to (re-)present narratives guided by a combined interest into the unique, personal whilst also looking for ‘themes’ within and across these narratives.